Chicken Jalfrezi

We have decided on a new regime. We seem, somehow, to have become rounder.

Somewhat stout, actually. We are going to have to go on a diet. Only thing is, we aren’t very good at diets … well we aren’t very good at chewing on celery and raw carrots.

What we thought we could do is eat as if we weren’t on diets but make sure what we do eat is low calorie.

I started to go through magazines looking for recipes that came in at under 400 calories a serving. My thinking behind this was that if we ate sensibly at breakfast and lunch then we could look forward to something nice at supper.

But supper had to be low calorie….. I wanted proper food not some kind of packet.

You can buy packets of ready meals that have the calories counted for you but that wasn’t the way I was going to go.  If I could make sure that each serving was low calorie but still home made and tasty.. well that was the answer.

If it was only 400 calories a serving then that would mean there was still room to bring in a side dish… we could diet and feel as if we were still enjoying ourselves! All I had to do was find some recipes

One of the first recipes I found was Chicken Jalfrezi in Olive magazine, October 2008.

And it was only 250 calories per serving!

That had to be a winner. So, what did we need?

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A large onion, sliced,

3 cloves of garlic

2-3 green chillies, sliced

Ginger grated

Chicken thighs – 6 cut into chunks

Tomatoes, 5, roughly chopped

Green pepper, chopped into pieces

Coriander – small bunch with the leaves picked off

Yoghurt – small pot

Spice mix

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 cloves , ground
  • Well, you can see in the picture that it is, first and foremost, rather dark. That’s because I was late in from work and despite all the lights being on, it still looks dark.

    You can also see a tin of tomatoes – I forgot to get fresh. Just as I forgot to get fresh garlic and ginger, hence the tubes of puree. Oh, and the pepper is not green but orange.

    Still… everything else is OK……

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    First thing.. heat 2 tablespoons of  oil in a pan and add the onion and a good pinch of salt and fry until it is soft and golden, then add the chillies, garlic and ginger and cook for another couple of minutes

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    Make the spice mix

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    And add it.. I had also put in the stalks of the coriander (they can’t contain many calories, can they? And they do taste nice)

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    Cook it all for a couple of minutes to round out the flavour..

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    Add the chicken pieces

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    And stir round

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    Then add a splash of water, the tomatoes and the pepper

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    You can now cover the pan and let it cook gently for 30 minutes or so.

    That gives you enough time to go and settle yourself for a while… it had been a long day for me and I was tired. Even so, that wasn’t a lot of work and was surprisingly quick to do….

    The sauce will have started to thicken up by now.. if not then take the lid off for the last ten minutes. If you are using the yoghurt, add it now and stir it in for a creamier sauce. I still had plenty left from the Total Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment, so this was an ideal dish to try it in.

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    and add the coriander leaves

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    I made steamed basmati rice to go with it….and served it up.

    Even with the rice that had to be less than 500 calories.

    A bowl of ice cream is 500 calories.. and that’s a small bowl. I know what I prefer.

    The Chicken Jalfrezi  was quick and easy to prepare (there was a half hour break in the middle while it cooked) and it was ready and served within the hour. It felt like we were having a real meal….. it certainly didn’t feel like any kind of diet I had been on before. The yoghurt made the sauce taste rich and creamy so there was a definite level of luxury about it all.

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    There you go. A way forward out of the diet doldrums. I made that after a long day and it certainly wasn’t difficult but it certainly was delicious.

    400 and Under is the way forward!

    The vegetable oyster, salsify

    While I was getting some vegetables from our local shop, I spotted these long black roots….

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    I’d been wanting to try it for ages as I had been told it tasted like oysters and that one of its other names was the vegetable oyster.

     I love oysters. One of my favourite places in the world is  Tasmania where we have spent the past two  Christmases and one of my favourite things to do is to sit on the harbour edge, eating freshly caught oysters, bought straight from the boat. I would get a a dozen or so  for lunch and just sit in the sunshine, looking out to sea and eating oysters.

    So… if there was a vegetable that tasted like oysters….. maybe I could pretend? OK, so I am probably at the farthest point from the sea it is possible to get in England and this is definitely not summer but I have a vivid imagination……

    How on earth could a vegetable taste like an oyster? I thought I had better find out.

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    Under that blackened, dusty and hard skin is a white root. You need to peel it clean but as it is rather slender, use a peeler to keep the peelings as thin as possible. You don’t want to waste anything.

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    Salsify blackens easily, so I read, so it’s one of thise vegetables you need to cook in acidulated water to keep it white. What that means is that you need to put a lemon in the pan – I always use the already squeezed half of one – there’s enough lemon in that to do that job and it saves using another.

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    So, peel it, cube it and pop it all in a pan

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    Apparently, the way to do it is to boil it till tender and then saute it…

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    Well, here goes…. start melting some butter

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    While the butter is melting, drain the salsify…

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    Pop it in the pan….preliminary nibble reveals no taste of oysters.

    Maybe the sauteing would reveal an oystery taste?

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    And the answer to that?

    Well, I can only assume that whoever thought they tasted like oysters didn’t eat them very often… or maybe oysters had a different taste back then. Maybe my tastebuds are deficient?

    Salsify is nice enough – a bland taste with a hint of something… but that something isn’t oyster. I don’t know what it is, though. Sauteing it in butter helped, though I have to say frying anything in butter probably improves it.

    Maybe I had a rogue batch? I don’t know. There seemed to be a lot of work involved for a rather innocuously tasting vegetable that needed two cooking processes to get it to the table.The Bear ate it – after all, he is omnivorous these days – and he agreed with me.

    Maybe if we see it in a restaurant we will order it, where perhaps someone else will make a better job of it than me. Maybe one of you has already cooked it and knows a better method?

    Well, for the moment, my curiosity is satisfied and I can put out of my mind replicating my Hobart happiness by eating a vegetable. I’d better get saving for the next trip………

    Chilli Oil

    I know we only have a very small balcony and it is incredibly windy up at the top of our building,but I have managed to grow things up here.

    This year the chillies have been fantastic and even though it is now getting towards the end of November there were still chillies ripening

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    It really was time I did something with them before they spoiled on the plant.

    I have a whole load of them ready to be stuffed with cheese and wrapped with bacon but even I, with my chilli addiction, can’t eat that many.

    One of the other things I do is make chilli oil, using vegetable oil, so that I can cook with it. It just gives a little nip of something to whatever I am frying. And, oh, the difference it makes to a fried egg!

    Of course, it also means that you have chillies available to cook with – softened, admittedly, due to their immersion in oil, but at least you have some.


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    So, harvest the chillies…..

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    Aren’t they beautiful? On a cold and wet November day they really are a bright spot.

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    Put them in a bowl and pour boiling water over them and squoosh them about for a few seconds then drain them

    It helps to slash them so they will sink in the oil…. just remember if you do this that you must be careful with your fingers afterwards.

    I know everyone always says this… and I know that everyone usually forgets and then gets a shock when they stick their fingers somewhere. Well, I have said it so don’t complain when you rub your eyes.

    Put your chillies in a jar and pour oil over them

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    And that’s it.

    You’ll be surprised how quickly the oil takes on the essence of chilli and very pleased with how many things you can add use the oil in…..a spoonful when you are making mayonnaise, for example, really sparks it up.  And it is, you’ll probably agree, a particularly pretty jar to have in your kitchen.

    What more can you ask for – a multitasking end product? Useful AND pretty.

    Pea and Soya bean houmous with fresh cheese on toast

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    I really like the taste of soya beans – there’s a lovely nuttiness to soya and the texture is really good. Not floury at all like so many beans, but clean and firm. I often make a mixed dish of soya beans and peas to serve with a meal as a vegetable side dish. It looks so pretty as well – bright green peas and beans together look beautifully fresh and taste clean and bright.

    In the summer I had spotted a recipe in Good Food for Pea and Broad Bean Houmous and thought it looked delicious… but how much more delicious it would be, if the broad beans were replaced with soya beans.

    As it is November, the heating systems have come on at work and they are proving difficult to control – it can be almost tropical at times, so a light and cooling lunch (that is ideal in summer time) actually has its place in the grey days of late autumn. You can make this and pack it easily for a lunch to be  taken to work… all you need are the soya beans, some peas

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    Some garlic, a lemon, some oil, fresh cheese  (well, I made it at the weekend in the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment and I still have some left so that will be perfect instead of the goat’s cheese in the original recipe) and some lovely, slow risen No Knead Bread.

    Let’s start on the houmous then….. start by boiling the soya beans. They are done first because they are bigger than the peas… so give them a few minutes in a pan

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    and then add the peas. Frozen vegetables, like peas and beans are marvellous because you end up with the freshest and tastiest little morsels – far sweeter than you could ever hope to get by buying them in pods.

    The peas will only need a minute or two then drain the lot, rinsing them in cold water

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    They really do look so lovely

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    While they are rinsing and cooling down, pop two or three garlic cloves in the pan you have just emptied and add some oil…. this needs to be on the lowest setting so you can gently cosset those cloves into softness without burning them or making them change colour (though I have to say it isn’t the end of the world if they do change colour…)

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    Then, whizz the peas and beans to a sort of roughishly smooth texture

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    Once the garlic is soft, add the oil and the garlic to the pea and soya bean puree and whizz it round again – you want it smooth but not so smooth it has no texture at all. You are aiming for a graininess, I suppose.

    And squeeze a lemon, after taking off its zest .. add the juice and the zest and stir ….season it well with salt and pepper…. it should taste lovely

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    Put it in a bowl and drizzle with more oil… then… make some toast

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    Get out your cheese

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    Spread lightly

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    Then top with your lovely houmous….

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    … there you go… light and fresh and so very tasty. Ideal in the tropical temperatures of an overheated office. Even if it is the dog end of November.

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    Blueberry yoghurt cake

     I am back at work again, in an office with people I have worked with before. It’s good to work together and I am enjoying myself, even with the large amount of work that we have to get through. There’s laughter and friendliness and they have made me so welcome … so what better way to show them I appreciate them than to bake a cake? We could all have a slice with our coffee or tea and share it with anyone else who comes into our office. (And  maybe I could fatten them up a bit? They are all very slender and I am getting very stout. I need to even things up a bit)

    As I am in the middle of the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment I could make a cake involving yoghurt! I once had a marvellous recipe for a cake that involved either sour cream or yoghurt and blueberries but I had  let a friend have my copy and it has disappeared for good now. Drat. Let that be a lesson to you – if you ever find a really great recipe, make sure you don’t let someone have your only copy.

    I had to start searching for something similar and found something on one of my favourite blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini, a recipe for a Blueberry Yoghurt Cake. In fact, it wasn’t that similar but it sounded good. Well, it had blueberries in it so it was vaguely similar to the other cake…..this was going to be a light, not overly sugary or sticky cake. Just something that would go well with a cup of tea. There’s a place for over indulgent cakes and sitting at our desks probably isn’t it. A plain cake, as my Granny would call it. Light and moist with blueberries popping up throughout to give a little sharpness and a light crunchy topping of sugar…. that should work for our elevenses.

    Get your cake tin ready – I am using a springform lined with those brilliant paper liners. Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees

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    Then, ingredients  –  yoghurt – about 250 ml (that was most of these two pots and the rest could be eaten later…. 😉 )

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    200g of sugar

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    2 eggs

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    80 ml of sunflower oil

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    1 teaspoon pure vanilla paste extract

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    A sloosh of cognac… the recipe said rum but we didn’t have any, so it was either cognac or gin. As I feel gin is necessary as a medicinal measure every now and then, I thought I would use the cognac.

    I’d have to use cognac.

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    That had to be combined gently – no furious beating.

    In the meantime, in a bowl, combine

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    2 cups – (which actually weighed out as 300 g) of plain flour. (I like to use the Italian ’00’ flour as it is ground extra fine and makes beautifully fine and light cakes and smooth sauces as well as marvellous pasta)

    1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder and  1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.

    Make sure they are well mixed together then add that to the cake batter.

    Again, don’t over stir it.

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    Next, frozen blueberries – just before you pour the cake mixture into the cake tin, throw a handful or so of the frozen berries in (if you don’t like blueberries try raspberries)

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    Then put it all into the cake tin and put that into your oven.

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    Thirty five minutes or so later, have a look  – is it browning nicely?

    Does a skewer come out clean? If not then put it back in for a few more minutes

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    And so… we have a cake.

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    Most of it was taken to work, and none of it came home. Make of that what you will.

    Well, make it, will you?

    Woodpigeon Breasts on toast with lemon and thyme fresh cheese

    I had got some woodpigeon breasts and thought they would make a lovely lunch.

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    Beautiful wild game with no additives

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    Except, perhaps the lead shot that killed it!

    I also had the lovely fresh cheese that I made specifically for this on the Great Greek Yoghurt Challenge….

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    And I have a fresh loaf of No Knead Bread

    (I think I have seen a recipe for something very like this but I really can’t find it… I can’t have imagined it, surely? I have spent ages flicking through my magazines looking for the recipe but I just can’t spot it. It was probably in Olive or delicious. a year or more ago and it involved some kind of game, on toast with a lemony, thyme-y ricotta…. probably.  I have searched online and I still can’t find it – if any of you know who did it then let me know so I can give due credit. I would hate for someone to think I was stealing their ideas and I always try to link back to originals. I would hope that people would do that for me too)

    Anyway, this is as simple as simple can be and oh-so-fast.

    First, slice and toast your bread

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    Heat some oil in a pan (I use my oil that I have steeped chillies in – it just gives things a little lift) 

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     and after seasoning the woodpigeon breasts with salt and some thyme

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    start to fry it quickly -it will only take a few minutes to get the outside browned beautifully while the inside stays pink

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    Once it is done, take it out and let it rest while you deglaze the pan with something.. wine, perhaps? Sherry? Port? Or, as I did, a Balsamic truffle glaze.

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    Slice the pigeon breast and lay it on the toast,

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    Drizzle with the pan juices

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    Put a spoonful of the fresh cheese over the meat

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    And that, I should tell you, was a lovely weekend lunch.

    And I know that, hard though it is to believe, that one portion of this will come in at under 400 calories. Just a squeak under, but under, nevertheless.

    It would be a brilliant week night supper as well, as it can be made in less than 15 minutes, if you have everything to hand.

    Christmas Pudding Stuffing

    Last week I got two of Matthew Walker’s Christmas Puddings  sent through the post.

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    The company have a competition  to win a camera and a photography course and asked  everyone  in the UK Food Blogger’s Association to have a go and invent something new using their Christmas puddings…

    As the company says,

    “the original Christmas pudding is based on a traditional recipe that includes 13 core ingredients, which represent Jesus and his 12 apostles.

    I travel the globe to select the very finest spirits, vine fruits and seasonal spices, from a stout that is brewed right here in The Peak District to succulent sultanas and currents from Turkey and Greece.

    The result is a beautifully moist and fruity Christmas pudding that truly captures the traditional taste of the festive season.”

    And what exactly are the ingredients?

    • Sultanas
    • Raisins
    • Demerara Sugar
    • Currants
    • Glacé Cherries
    • Stout
    • Breadcrumbs
    • Sherry
    • Vegetarian Suet
    • Almonds
    • Orange & Lemon Peel
    • Cognac
    • Mixed Spices

    Well then. With a list like that of ingredients,  I had better start thinking. I began with the little pudding. I was thinking of trying something savoury, something different….

    And then I thought of stuffing. What about some lovely roast pork with crispy crackling? After all apple and apricot are perfectly normal stuffings for pork. When I talked about this at work there was a fifty-fifty split about whether this would work, probably just as there will be amongst those of you who read this.  I thought it would work… sweetly, spicy, savoury stuffing? What’s not to like about that?

    The very first thing to do will be to get the oven as hot as possible to make the perfect crackling for that lovely pork… so put it on now to preheat

    Then, open the pudding and smell it

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    It was rich and dense and spicy and dark – as dark as the devil’s heart as we would say.

     So the next step was to make it into stuffing – first things first, start with the savoury aspect

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    Bacon and onion would add a good savoury taste


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    Gently fry the onion then chop the bacon (or do as I do and use scissors – much quicker)  and add that to the onion

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    Make some breadcrumbs  – I have a Bamix and this makes breadcrumbs in seconds

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    Cut up the pudding and add it to the breadcrumbs and mix it well. Adding a sprinkle of  some salt and pepper rounds things out

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    Some suet.. real suet from the butcher….. just a sprinkle, but imagine how that will make it taste….

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    Once the bacon and onion have cooled slightly, stir that in as well

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    Then mix an egg lightly

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    And add that – this will bind everything together and chill the mix in the fridge. Having it cool will make it easier to roll and it also means you have time to tidy the benches and give things a quick wipe down.

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    On to the pork…. make sure the skin is properly scored – if it isn’t already, sharpen a knife and slash it. Remember, the thinner the slashes the thinner and crispier the crackling will be. Massage in some oil and then rub that rind with salt.

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    Now, I spotted a problem… I had been going to stuff the pork with the stuffing but it wasn’t the best rolled joint…

    Balls, I thought. 

    Stuffing balls, I mean, obviously! Straightforward stuffing the joint wouldn’t work, but rolling it into balls and roasting separately might just do it….

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    Look how pretty they look

    So, put that pork in to sear and blister. Leave that in there on the highest heat till you can see the skin bubbling, then you can turn things down and relax for a while.

    I decided some nice goose fat roasted potatoes and the benefit of that would be that I could put those stuffing balls in with them towards the end of the roasting time and they could roll around in the sizzling goose fat so they become crispy on the outside and stay moist and juicy in the middle….

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    So, things were progressing well….once the potatoes were starting to turn golden, in went the stuffing balls

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    The meat was taken out to rest… look at that crackling

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    And then…. put everything together…

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    In conclusion? I was right. As a festive stuffing it hits all the right buttons.

    The stuffing balls, born from necessity, are probably the better way to go. The outside crisps up beautifully, while the inside stays juicy.

    And… this might be noted as a guilty pleasure… I got in from work the following night and nibbled one… even cold it tasted gorgeous!

    And the Bear’s verdict? He ate everything and then asked for pork and Christmas Pudding stuffing sandwiches for lunch. I guess that means he likes it too.

    Make them, this is a recipe to remember and use.

    Oh and thank you, Matthew Walker, that pudding is a real Christmas cracker     😉


    I was born and brought up in the North of England in a more rural area than most of the rest of the country. I lived in a small village before I moved to the city. That’s it in the picture, just perched on the hill below the rising sun

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     Shooting is a pretty typical pastime, whether it is clay pigeons or game, in season. And now it is autumn, with its cool and misty mornings…… shooting season begins

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    Those of you who disagree with shooting, leave the page now. What follows will only be of interest to those who believe that if you want to eat meat then you take the responsibility of dealing with its death. I believe it is an honest way of getting food.

    It is also seasonal, healthy and very tasty. Excellent reasons for getting your own game. If you don’t (or can’t shoot) then support people who do and sell their game on. My brother (he of the ginger beer ham) shoots and, if he is feeling generous towards his big sister, will hand over various birds.

    It’s the shooting season now and I asked him to remember me.

    He must have been thinking of me because he sent me some photos   (probably the only photographs on this blog that  I didn’t take myself, so full credit to  little brother)  anyway, he took them on his mobile phone while he was out  the other day

    Big Little Brother's Shoot

     Fantastic, isn’t it?

    And while he was lurking in the undergrowth….look what went past

    Bruv's deer pic

    No, he didn’t come home clutching a haunch of venison but in the autumn months we are always well supplied with game birds – pheasants, wood pigeon, partridge, wild duck – and they make an excellent addition to autumn cooking.

    Big Little Brother's shots!

    At the moment, in my freezer, I have woodpigeon and pheasant and I know exactly what I will be doing with most of them. One of the many good things about having a regular supply of game is that you can experiment with new recipes and not just stick to the traditional ones.

    Expect more posts on this – you might not have the game but you could replace that in the menu with chicken and you might find new recipes to please you.

    Oh, and expect, at some point, to find a masterclass on breasting pheasant  – the world’s best little brother has promised to take pictures to show you how easy it is to prepare a pheasant for cooking! He’s also rather good on recipes…..

    Fresh Cheese

    When I was young my mother would sometimes make cheese if milk had started to sour. Not a matured cheddar cheese or anything like that but a simple, home-made, fresh cheese, just as people have done all over the world whenever they have had spare or spoiling or leftover dairy products.

    It’s easy enough – all you need is some milk or yoghurt, a sieve, a jug, some salt and some muslin. If you want to flavour it, you can mix in some chopped herbs say, or lemon zest, or garlic.. maybe crushed black peppercorns….. anything at all.

    As part of the Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment I thought I would use some of the yoghurt to make cheese as I need some for another recipe.

    You do need to allow some time for this but don’t worry, it’s not as if you have to be busy with it, hour after hour. Like much else we do, it is a case of starting it off and then leaving it to do its business until we wander back to it.

    So, first of all, get your yoghurt

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    ………and think about what you want your cheese for.

    I want to use it in a recipe that will involve roasted game, thyme and lemon so I will add lemon zest and thyme to it. If you want plain cheese then you make plain cheese – if you want something else then you add it. It really is as simple as that.

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    My balcony herb box is looking a bit battered now but there’s still plenty of thyme.

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    Strip the leaves from it and chop it finely.

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    Get a lemon (make sure that you wash it properly – especially if it is a waxed one. You certainly don’t want wax in your lovely fresh cheese! If it is unwaxed then scrub it just as carefully because you certainly don’t want people’s dirty fingers in your cheese either)

    Get a lemon zester and get some lemon zest (that was a difficult photo to take… clutching the lemon and the zester in one hand as I leant over to take a shot with the other) and then chop the zest finely

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    And now for the important bit – using the yoghurt. This will make lovely, thick, smooth cheese. (If you are using sour milk it will be an awful lot thinner and more lumpy, more like cottage cheese.)

    Total Greek Yoghurt is already strained so it is, to start with, thick and smooth.. look at it….

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    it’s so thick you almost need to cut it.

    Get it into a bowl and then add a pinch or two of salt and the finely chopped thyme and lemon zest

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    Mix it all together and then….

    …….Get your high tech cheese making equipment together

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    You need a sieve and a jug and some muslin, if you have any

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    I can’t find mine so I bought some new dishcloths – they are tightly woven and at 3 for 25p, a bit of a bargain. Give them a good wash in plenty of hot water, rinsing well to make sure they are clean

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    and line the sieve, which is now placed over the jug

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    and then scoop your yoghurty, herby, lemony mix in there.

    Technical, huh?


    Then you put it in the fridge and leave it. You’ll need at least a day, preferably two. I put it in on Friday night and now, Sunday lunchtime, it is perfectly drained. The Total site has a recipe for making much the same cheese – except they add mint and  call it Labna. Just goes to show that wherever you go people make the same food using the same ingredients.

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    Even though it is strained, some whey can still come out… there’ll not be much, though and you will see the yoghurt is becoming more dense. More cream cheese like…

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    See? It is so dense you can just lift it out of the draining cloth.

    And that’s it… you’ve done it. Perfect cream cheese, flavoured exactly as you want it, made with the simplest ingredients.

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    It’s ready for you to eat now, just as it is. What could be simpler?

    I am going to use this in a couple of things I am making……. and I bet you will want to make them too, so start on your fresh cheese now and catch up with me later!

    The Great Greek Yoghurt Experiment

    Those lovely people at Total Greek Yoghurt sent me a big delivery of yoghurt so that I could try out recipes…..

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    Yoghurt has been made for over 4,500 years and is eaten all over the world  – for many adults, milk is hard to digest and yoghurt is perhaps the only way that milk can be consumed. It is only really the North European who generally escape the problems of lactose intolerance and can drink milk with impunity.

    When yoghurt is made, the bacteria in live yoghurt, by breaking down the sugar into lactic acid, makes it easier to digest and even those with lactose intolerance can sometimes eat yoghurt. It’s worth a try if you do suffer….

    And there are so many things you can do with yoghurt  – apart from eating it with honey or fruit and nuts, it makes beautiful moist cakes; it can be used in savoury dishes instead of cream… and it is my mission to work my way through  a variety of recipes and really extend my repertoire.

    Phase one of my first recipe has already been started and tomorrow, all will be revealed. Then of course there are the other things….